Grand Rapids Community College gave an aspiring anesthesiologist a second chance at academic success.
Marcus Barissi was an honors student and athlete from middle school on until chronic medical problems left him behind in the high school classroom his freshman year. His frustration led him to eventually drop out and get his GED diploma. He admits that enrolling at GRCC wasn’t his first choice.
“When I started at GRCC, I didn’t want to accept the fact I couldn’t attend my dream school right away, so I chose to sulk around and feel sorry for myself,” he said.
But he decided that he didn’t want to waste any more time and got involved. He made friends in Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges, and as a member of GRCC’s Student Alliance. He attended local, regional and national conferences and worked on a college-wide suicide prevention project.
His hard work in the classroom led to success that built his confidence. He received the Cedric and Sandy Ward Leadership Award and was named Outstanding Biology Student for 2017-2018 and was a member of the All-Michigan Academic Team. This spring, he was one of 89 students inducted into Delta Pi Alpha, recognition goes only to the top 5 percent of the graduating class.
“Academically, I was completely surprised by the rigor of GRCC courses,” Barissi said. “After two years and 80 credits of challenging courses, I feel much more prepared for the next chapter of my life. All my professors have made me feel included and wanted.”
“Without him, I don’t believe I would have been as prepared for the rigor of my biology degree, let alone my medical degree,” Barissi said. “Relationships such as these have redefined my understanding of how a student interacts with an instructor. Instead of looking down and trying to ignore your instructor, which is what I consistently did before, I’ve discovered it is important to create true friendships, potentially long-lasting ones, that can benefit you in the future.”
Forbes said Barissi is not only intelligent and motivated but also courteous and supportive of his fellow students.
“Marcus is a model student whom other students clearly recognize as worth emulating,” Forbes said. “He is destined to make this world a better place to live.
“The world needs more people like Marcus!”
Barissi will receive an Associate of Science at GRCC’s commencement, which starts at 7 p.m. April 27 in the fieldhouse.
You use GPS when you’re traveling to an unfamiliar destination — but what’s your personal GPS on the route to success? And even if you think you have a plan, what’s your contingency if it takes a sudden turn off course?
Attorney Rasheed Ali Cromwell will present a free workshop on Seeds of Success: Next Level Leadership — open to students, faculty and staff — from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 29 in the ATC auditorium.
The session, a collaboration between Student Alliance, the Woodrick Center and the Campus Climate CAP, will help you create a route, direction and blueprint for professional development as a college student.
Questions? Contact Tambor Bustance at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sophia Brewer at email@example.com.
As part of a week of activities leading up to his September 29 investiture, President Bill Pink will welcome GRCC alumni who are participating in a panel discussion.
“Today and Tomorrow: The GRCC Alumni Journey — This Is How We Did It” is open to students and runs 11:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. September 26 in room 103 of Sneden Hall.
Tatum Kovach, director of external affairs for Student Alliance, will moderate the discussion.
Panel members are:
Tony Helmholdt, automotive technician for Tesla Motors.
Helmholdt, a Forest Hills Central High School graduate, received an associate degree in automotive technology in 2008 while working part-time as an auto technician at Fox Ford Mazda. In 2009, he took a job rebuilding transmissions at O’Neill’s Transmission Service.
When he wasn’t working on motors on the job, he spent his time … working on motors. In 2007, he converted the family lawnmower to operate on compressed hydrogen gas. In 2008, he converted a motorcycle to operate on full battery electric power. He’s been building — and racing — electric motorcycles for a decade.
In 2010, he joined electric car maker Tesla Motors, working out of Chicago and San Jose, Calif., servicing its fleet of vehicles nationwide.
“Skills I learned at GRCC — combined with some passion — led to my success story, as it opened the eyes of prospective Tesla recruiters,” he said. “GRCC’s fantastic facilities, staff, and training have made a significant difference in my life, and I hope it continues to do so for others who enjoy the program as much as I did.”
Hilda Martinez-Gutierrez, coordinator of GRCC’s suicide prevention program.
After graduating from GRCC, Martinez-Gutierrez went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in family studies and a master’s degree in counselor education-family counseling, both from Western Michigan University.
Martinez-Gutierrez, who served an internship with GRCC’s TRIO program, is the coordinator of the college’s campus suicide prevention program. The program, funded by a three-year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, includes activities on both the Main and Lakeshore campuses, training, and crisis response planning.
“GRCC means opportunity to access continuing education at a higher level — exposure to discover the difference within people around me and the world,” she said. “It has provided the space for me to experience my journey, my story which has enhanced my love for working in higher education, most specifically with the college student population.”
Denavvia Mojét, political consultant and community organizer.
Mojét pursues her passion for educating and empowering vulnerable populations, bolstering civic engagement, and striving for workforce diversity.
Her first efforts were in Benton Harbor, where she observed first-hand the effects of underfunded municipalities, education inequality and the overreaching Emergency Management laws. She received the Key to the City of Benton Harbor for her efforts.
She managed the successful 2016 state House campaign for the 75th District. She hosts the weekly radio segment, “Political Pulse” on Grand Rapids’ 97.3. She recently co-founded Equity PAC, a political action committee that advocates for low-income populations and works to eliminate socioeconomic disparities.
“GRCC gave me groundbreaking experiences, life-changing lessons and a dynamic network that empowered me to succeed in my career and impact my community,” she said. “I’m a better mother, teacher, student and professional because of my time at GRCC and I am proud to be an alumna.”
Publes emigrated from Cuba with his family as a political refugee in 1988. He received an Associate in Liberal Arts from GRCC and a Bachelor of Arts, with a concentration in theater and Spanish, from Western Michigan University.
“I was an immigrant child who didn’t know the first thing about college and how to navigate those waters,” he said. “Thanks to my professors and lifelong mentors like Fred Sebulske, Tom Kaechele and Michelle Urbane from the Theater Department, I was able to prepare myself, discover my passion and eventually pursue my dream of being an actor.”
While living in Chicago, he performed with the Steppenwolf Theater Company, Healthworks Theater, Teatro Vista, Apple Tree Theater, Second City and Lookingglass Theater. He has appeared in the films “Batman Vs. Superman” and “Stone” and on the TV shows “Chicago Fire,” Chicago PD,” “Shameless” and “Empire.”
He has started his own theater company, Mixed Roots Collective, to address inequality of representation in local theater and film. Along with Urbane and Todd Lewis, he has formed One World Diversity in an attempt to address issues of disparity and inclusion and equality in society.
Student Alliance serves as the liaison between students and the GRCC administration. The group will host a “town hall” from 2-3:30 p.m. August 31 in the Student Center’s multipurpose room.
Cale Merdzinski has been named Student Alliance president for the 2017-18 academic year. He attended City High School and Nexus Academy and plans to transfer to the University of Michigan to study cellular biology. He’s a member of the Biodiversity and Anime clubs at GRCC.
Tatum Kovach will serve as director of external affairs. A City High graduate, she plans to transfer to Kendall College of Art and Design to major in graphic design.
Kaitlynne Karl is the alliance’s communications director. A graduate of Tri County High School in Howard City, she plans to transfer to Austin Texas University and study pharmacology.
Kyezie Bwanangela will serve as director of operations. A native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he plans to transfer to Grand Valley State University to study criminal justice.
Cale Merdzinski has been named president of the Student Alliance for the 2017-18 academic year. He is starting his presidency strong by running to and from alliance, board of trustees and Campus Activities Board meetings! Meet Cale at Raider Rally, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. August 26 at the fieldhouse.
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